French threat on aid to Somalia

MOGADISHU (AFP) - The French Minister for Health and Humanitarian Action, Bernard Kouchner, visiting Mogadishu, threatened that 'international aid to Somalia will stop if insecurity persists' in the country. On a two-day visit to Somalia yesterday and on Tuesday, he met the leaders of the rival factions in the civil war and welcomed a shipment of French aid to the country.

In Paris, the Medecins Sans Frontieres humanitarian group called for massive aid for the country, saying that Somali people all along the coastline were suffering severe hunger. The Save the Children Fund called yesterday for a huge sealift of aid.

The capital was calm during Mr Kouchner's visit, with the rival factions of the Unified Congress for Somalia abiding by the UN-brokered ceasefire agreed in March. Mr Kouchner went to the capital's port, where a French ship arrived earlier in the day with a cargo of 2,000 tonnes of food aid and 100,000 litres of fuel.

The French minister crossed the line dividing the two warring factions led by General Mohamed Farah Aideed and Somalia's interim president, Ali Mahdi Mohamed. 'France is here in response to an appeal by the UN Secretary-General and by Mohamed Sahnoun,' said Mr Kouchner. Mr Sahnoun, the UN envoy to Somalia, accompanied Mr Kouchner on the visit.

Mr Kouchner met the vice- president of the United Somali Congress, Abdi Osman Farah, in Gen Aideed's absence in Baitoha. He also met Ali Mahdi Mohamed.

Many of the people displaced by the civil war are camped to the north of Mogadishu, having been forced from their homes in Kismayo in the south and Baitoha in the south-west, which Mr Kouchner was to visit yesterday before returning to Nairobi.

Medecins Sans Frontieres have reported the findings of one of their teams to the region, which travelled the 106-mile road between Brava, 150 miles south of the capital, and Gilib. In Brava, the team came across 'serious malnutrition'. Along the road to Gilib 'a large number of the population had already died of hunger, disease, or in fighting'.

Don Redding, the Save the Children Fund spokesman, called on the UN yesterday to spearhead a seaborne operation to inundate the country with food aid, ensuring some would find its way to the starving population and not be waylaid by armed gangs.